The Random Canundrum

There is this notion that random is not only real, but a commonality. But randomness It’s cognitively tedious and distracting from surviving in life to account for everything in your context, otherwise you’d see completely non-random, logical events everywhere and no random luck or random coincidences. Humans simplify and categorize as a wise strategy to make efficient perceptions and reactions. This nature extends from physical sensory systems into higher-order cognitive systems as we hone motor and somatosensory life with thoughtful life. So when we plan, judge, recollect, and otherwise idealize we are unknowingly using 8-bit, choppy information. This information composes our reality and is a happy medium to handle for us humans. One result is belief in randomness. A definition is due before we proceed to rip apart randomness to mind-craft a few insights and lessons. I think most would agree random means an occurrence that had no good reason or logic, a think unpredictable, and for some just something improbable.

“Random” is purely conceptual and by some definitions can’t exist in our universe. If random is something unpredictable or with no cause then it is not of this world. Everything has cause-and-effect because it’s a result of the conservation laws that our universe seems unable to break. Nothing could be random because an event occurs every time something happens that in theory (or with super observational powers) could be accounted for, modeled and made predictable. This accounting assumes one could follow a fundamental particle, tracking and noting every evolution in a complete series of cause-effect events. This is not random. Even if no one cares to show something isn’t random we can be confident it isn’t as random has a bad track record. Random is useful as a filler for detail and a way to show something is weird. This usually is in complex cause-effect systems or poorly observed mysteries, so random here would refer to lack of understandindg.  For example, astronomers are baffled by a uni-directional flow of hundreds or even thousands of galaxies toward and from no cause. This random glitch is called Dark Flow. We can bet there is a non-random explanation.. For now, we lack ability to observe enough to not label it as random wackiness for now.

In things like the lottery, or gambling in general, it is common knowledge that these are based on some randomness, even if rigged a bit. First off, if it’s rigged a bit — which it is and they even secretly admit it when they show you the odds and any player or dealer’s chance on winning isn’t equal — then it isn’t random. Ah, but maybe there is randomness in some parts, like a roll of dice or shuffle of cards, a spin of wheel perhaps? Regardless, any game can be broken down to show no randomness at all and you find the game is based on being very hard to predict or with so little chances to win and win seems like random luck. If you had enough information you could take the random out of  roulette, but they’d take you out of the casino because you’d be setting up sensors and equipment in the pit. For those under 21 that’s a no-no. So gambling games or lottery, like anything “random”  is just a facade of random. An illusion of randomness made from a smear of complex rules, elaborate distribution and of causal elements, and many sequences of events,, counter-intuitive rules and outcomes, or just hype and distraction (like a slot machine, stay tuned for their false randomness).  Before I go on, let’s breakdown scratcher tickets, which seem solidly random. Think of how a lottery is made: people make machines that print numbers on paper, or make mechanical parts move to display combinations of varying values, and rules must be formed by the creators to make the mass production scam function. They must have an elaborate and specified system because they need to make it seem random when it’s far from it. Maybe it’s true that to seem genuinely random you have to be the opposite of random.  If they are really being fair, they’ll use a random-number-generator to assist in determinations of all aspects of the system. Random-number-generators (RNGs) are our next topic and soon you’ll be calling them PRNGs or QRNGs (pseudo/quasi-random-number-generators).

Rando-num-gens are a tool used in computer programming or for complex systems modeling and are crafted by mathematicians. A RNG does not actually generate a random number or else it’d be based on mathemagic and not exist. It’s a misnomer, but as noted earlier, it’s used loosely to convey the number generated is hard to predict and is highly variable. This means RNGs must have instructions on how to make the “random” number, but there is no “random” math formula just as we don’t have formulas for other things that don’t obey any theory. The random-number-generator formula would be made of components that are non-random. Some necessary functions could be: determine your  minimum and maximum values so your set isn’t infinite and so non-computable, decide how you will initiate the generation formula in a less biased way, get the formula to answer with a high probability for any number from your set. No matter how random the numbers seem they are patterned and predictable enough to not be random. For systems modelling, things like viral infection models or stock market models require the best RNGs by their creators but usually they go away from math to find random values. The next try is using white noise to make values which would be about as random as physically rolling a sett of dice or something. Some sources for this are tracking a persons eye twitches or squiggles of a mouse cursor, wind or wave fluctuations, and my favorite the cosmic background radiowaves. All these are good ideas but not really random.  Even with a dedicated field of study that deciphers non-random patterns from “random noise” and researches non-random analysis methods to make “random numbers” from the noise, you just can’t get random if any or all your sources are non-random. So pseudo-random is the new random. Or we can start using “overly-complicated-origin numbers”, “white noise numbers”, or “my-marriage-fell-apart-to-get-this number”  but I’m ok with “random”; just as long as we know what random really means now.




  1. The word random is so overused these days just as the word literally. Now the word literally has come to mean figuratively and the word randomly may soon mean predictably. Or as you put it pseudo-random is the new random! And I try to convince my hubby that they are somehow tracking our winnings using the club card at the casino and that they “let” us win big this time recently because we had not been there in 7 months. If we return next weekend they will suck our winnings back to the casino. I know somehow that our winning was not random but a deliberate ploy to get us coming back so we can lose, lose, lose. I just know it and someone told me recently that they do use those cards for their nefarious purposes so they know how much you are willing to lose before you stop. So we do not even stop at random. Or do we if random now means predictable? They are seeing just how random or pseudo-random we really are.


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